Of Wasps and Figs

511tQZJac7L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Today’s feature has How on Earth’s Beth Bennett talking with Dr. Mike Shanahan, a biologist who has a degree in rainforest ecology.  He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, and investigated illegal bear farms.  His writing has appeared in The Economist, Nature, and The Ecologist, and he also was the illustrator for the book: Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals.  His interests delve into what people think about nature and our place in it.  Beth had a chance to talk with Dr. Shanahan about his new book: Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees.

Host: Joel Parker
Producer, Engineer, Executive Producer: Joel Parker
Additional contributions: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Unprocessed Food // Bee Biodiversity

Unprocessed-book coverReal Food (start time 4:20): What we eat , and how we eat, is inextricably connected to our own health as well as the health of the planet.  Every decision we make—whether to bake a chocolate cake or buy it from Safeway or at a Farmer’s Market—is full of nuances and even contradictions. Megan Kimble is a writer who became obsessed with wondering how she could make a difference in the world by examining her eating habits. Her just-published book, called Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food, is her personal journey into the scientific, public health, environmental and political issues related to food. Kimble will  speak tonight at the Boulder Book Store, at 7:30, and tomorrow night, July 30, at Tattered Cover in Denver, at 7:00 p.m.

Photo credit: Dan Groege
Palaeorhiza (from Papau New Guinea). Photo credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

The Buzz About Bees (start time 13:49): Across the United States, buzzing pollinators are key to the growth of countless flowering plants. But many bee species are also disappearing nationwide, due to pesticide use, habitat loss, and other threats.  Dr. Sam Droege is a wildlife biologist who studies this vanishing world. He heads up the U.S. Geological Survey’s Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. For several years he’s also led an effort to photograph bees — very, very close up.  Droege’s bee photos are the basis for a new book called “Bees: An Up-Close Look at Pollinators Around the World.”

Hosts: Susan Moran, Daniel Strain
Producers: Susan Moran, Daniel Strain
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Headline contributions: Daniel Strain

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Earth-friendly Landscaping

novak salvia darcyii and bee close upSummer is a time to celebrate our bursting gardens. But you may be wondering why your neighbor’s garden seems to be attracting all the butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds, while yours seems to be attracting mostly aphids and raccoons. Our guest, Alison Peck, owner of Matrix Gardens in Boulder, talks with How On Earth host Susan Moran about how we make our gardens beautiful, biologically diverse, homes for native wildlife. She’s a landscape designer specializing in xeriscape, native plant and other earth-friendly landscapes.
Some resources for gardening for wildlife:
* Xeres Society’s pollinator resource guide.
* Xeres Society’s book, Attracting Native Pollinators.
* Bio-Integral Resource Center, Berkeley, Calif.
* National Wildlife Federation’s “Garden for Wildlife” Program.

Hosts: Susan Moran and Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Kendra Krueger
Producer, Engineer, Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Plight of Bees // Climate and Flood

Feature 1: (start time: 03:45) Our first guest is Boulder beekeeper Tom Theobald. He talks about the current state of the bee crisis and what, if anything, the EPA is doing to address concerns that systemic pesticides like Clothianidan are properly controlled.


Dr. Claudia Tebaldi

Feature 2: (start time: 12:42) Then National Center for Atmospheric Research scientist Dr. Claudia Tebaldi joins us. Tebaldi, a statistician, specializes in long-term modeling of climate  change. We talk to her about the relationship between flood and the warming planet. We also talk about the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which she helped lead. She also explains what the ‘fog of prediction is.


Hosts: Jim Pullen, Beth Bartel
Producer: Jim Pullen
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Beth Bartel

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Buzz Aldrin’s Vision for Space//The Bees Needs

Buzz Aldrin’s Vision for Space Exploration (starts at 6:14) Dr. Buzz Aldrin advocates that the United States should not enter a space-race to the moon against the Chinese, or a race to Mars against the Russians, but rather show leadership by cooperating with the major space-faring nations to systematically step across the great void to the Red Planet. This is his personal Unified Space Vision. He is also working toward an independent council, a United Strategic Space Enterprise, that would advise American citizens about the nation’s space policy. USSE experts would draw on a deep knowledge of America’s previous successes and failures to present a unified plan of exploration, science, development, commerce, and security within a national foreign policy context. Buzz shared these visions with How On Earth’s Jim Pullen. Here’s an excerpt from his hour-long discussion with Jim. Stay tuned for the rest of his discussion, in which he shares little-known insights into why Apollo 11, not Apollo 12, was first to land humans on the moon, and never-before-shared honors for Neil Armstrong and Pete Conrad.

Bees Needs baby bee block at the KGNU Boulder studios © 2013 Jim Pullen

The Bees Needs (starts at 16:04) Colorado is home to over nine-hundred species of wild bees. Most of these solitary creatures nest in the ground, but others nest in the hollow stalks of plants, and about one hundred and fifty species nest in holes in wood. How are these bees doing? Are pesticides striking them down, like their honeybee cousins? How will they respond to changes in climate? CU scientists Dr. Alex Rose and Dr. Virginia Scott have embarked on a journey of discovery, and they’ve invited ordinary people to help. It’s the Bees Needs, a citizen-science project. How On Earther Jim Pullen is a part of that citizen-science team, and he invited Virgina and Alex to see what’s happening at the bustling bee block nest outside our studio.

Hosts: Jim Pullen and Susan Moran
Producer: Jim Pullen
Additional Contributions: Joel Parker and Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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Bees and Pesticides // Radiometers and Weather

Bees and Pesticides (start at 6:40). Two studies published last week in the journal Science (here and here) make a strong case for beekeepers who worry that a new class of pesticides called “neonicotinoids” hurts honeybees and bumblebees.   In recent years, honeybee populations have rapidly declined, in part due to a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Bumblebee populations have been suffering as well. Researchers have proposed many causes for these declines, including pesticides, but it’s been unclear exactly how pesticides cause damage. Both of the new studies looked at the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides, which were introduced in the early 1990s and have now become one of the most widely used crop pesticides in the world. One study, from the United Kingdom, shows that the pesticides reduce a bee’s ability to store enough food and to produce new queens.  In a second study, French researchers tied tiny radios to honeybees then exposed them to low levels of the pesticides; a high number of the bees lost their sense of direction and died away from the hive.  These two new studies add to concerns raised in January by a Purdue University study, which indicated that neonicotinoids persist, as poisons, in both plants and soil for much longer than thought, increasing the chance of the pesticide to harm bees and other insects.  Despite the increasing number of studies calling into question the safety of these pesticides, the EPA has done little to restrict their use.  Local beekeeper Tom Theobald talks with How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender that when it comes to honeybees, these are dangerous pesticides.  You can hear the extended version of this interview on this website.

Radiometers and Weather (start at 12:50). Predicting the weather is a tough job, and climate change is bringing unseasonal conditions that make it even more difficult to predict.  But a monitoring device produced here in Boulder may be able to improve local weather forecasts significnatly.  These radiometers work by creating 3-D profiles of the moisture in the air, which is a key element for meteorologists and climate modelers alike.  They are now being put to various weather-related uses all over the planet.  Stick Ware is the founder and lead scientist of the Boulder-based company, Radiometrics, and he’s here in the studio with us today to give us the scoop on these radiometers.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Breanna Draxler
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Headline Contributors: Susan Moran, Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Beekeeping in Troubled Times

Beekeeper's Lament, by Hannah Nordhaus; image courtesy of Harper Perennial

This week on How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews Hannah Nordhaus, Boulder-based author of the new book, The Beekeeper’s Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Feed America. Nordhaus describes how one passionate, colorful and quixotic beekeeper named John Miller struggles against all odds to keep beekeeping–and bees–alive at a time when they’re being slammed by a mysterious mixture of Colony Collapse Disorder, varroa mites and other maladies.

Nordhaus will give a reading at the Boulder Book Store on June 30, 7:30 p.m.

Hosts: Joel Parker and Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Joel Parker